Private 28976 Ernest Alfred Brakenbury

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Ernest Brakenbury. This photo was took before the war.

Ernest Alfred Brakenbury was born in 1881 and was the eldest son of Alfred and Anna Brakenbury who in turn had five other sons Arthur, Edwin, Victor, George and William. We will come onto George later on in 2017, but it is known that William also served in WWI. Ernest’s trade was listed as a coal carter during the 1911 Census.

Ernest joined the 8th Bedfordshire Regiment and we can also state that he did not go to war, at the very earliest, until January 1916. The 8th Bedfordshires had moved from the 24th Division to the 6th Division in October of 1915 and they had seen action on the Somme. We cannot pinpoint when he joined them, but he would have been part of a draft to make up for losses somewhere in this timeline. By December 1916, they were in trenches at Givenchy les la Bassée situated to the east of Bethune.

I have recorded the entire war diary for December 1916, as this was the month that Ernest was wounded.

1st December

Le Quesnoy Battalion training. Billets inspected by Corps Commander.

2nd December

Trenches at Givenchy-les-la-Bassee. Relieved 1/The Buffs in left sub sector of 16 IB front at GIVENCHY. A, B & C Coys in front line with D Coy in support in redoubt and keeps. Day cold & misty. Enemy quiet. At night enemy machine guns on back area especially near WINDY CORNER.

3rd December

In trenches as above. Enemy trench mortars aggressive during afternoon. Our snipers claim a hit at 10 a.m. – Officers patrol under Capt Body passed through gap in craters – entered German trenches, surprised and shot a sentry and then retired to our lines. Enemy trenches reported in good condition, wire bad.

4th December

In trenches as above. Enemy trench mortars aggressive during afternoon. Enemy working party 20 strong caught by our Lewis Gunners just after dark. Cries of pain denoting casualties were heard. Our snipers claim a hit today on German peering over parapet. Casualties 4 O.R. wounded.

5th December

In trenches as above. Enemy trench mortars bombarded our left front coy area between 3.30 am & 4.30 am. No damage done. Enemy attempts to dig trench near RED DRAGON CRATER impeded by indirect fire from machine gun and rifle grenades. Casualties 2 O.R. killed.

6th December

Pont Fixe road support trenches In trenches as above. Enemy quiet. Hostile patrol dispersed near THE GAP by our Lewis Gun at 7 a.m. Relieved by 1/The Buffs in the afternoon and moved back into support on the PONT FIXE ROAD.

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The trenches around Givenchy-les la-Bassee.

7th December

Battn in Support keep and billets. Working parties furnished to work on front line system.

8th December

In support as above. Working parties furnished on front line system.

9th December
In support as above. Working parties furnished on front line system.

10th December

Front line trenches Givenchy-les-la-Bassee Relieved 1/The Buffs in left sub sector. Enemy trench mortars aggressive during afternoon. Working party dispersed by one Lewis guns at night, one hit registered by our snipers. No casualties.

11th December

In trenches as above. Enemy very quiet except for a little trench mortar fire. Snipers claim a hit from TURNERS POST. Germans suspected to be occupying old trenches near RED DRAGON CRATER at stand to arms as whispering coughing & stamping of feet heard from that point. No casualties.

12th December

In trenches as above & Enemy quiet, apparently due to inclement weather damaging his trenches. Patrols report Germans reclaiming their old line near lip of craters. No casualties.

13th December

In trenches as above. Enemy field guns & mortars active during evening otherwise quiet. machine guns & snipers less active. Casualties 2 O.R. wounded.

14th December

Le Quesnoy relieved by 1/The Buffs and moved back into billets at LE QUESNOY.

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Ernest in uniform and this comes from the WW1 montage in Worstead church.

15th December

Battn bathed and changed underclothing. Working parties at night on line.

16th December 1916

Coys training. Inspection of arms by Bde. Armourer. Working parties at night.

17th December

Church service in Soldiers’ Club hut and working parties.

18th December

Front line trenches near Givenchy-les-la-Bassee Relieved 1/The Buffs in left subsector GIVENCHY. Enemy trench mortars active from 12.30 pm to 1.30 pm. Damage done to our trenches and saps considerable but no casualties. Night quiet. Enemy heard busy pumping and transport heard at 12.25 am and again at 2.30 a.m.

19th December

In trenches as above. Enemy non-aggressive except for short trench mortar bombardment & rifle grenades. Casualties 1 OR killed, 2 OR wounded.

20th December

In trenches as above. Quiet day and night. Enemy busy working during night on his trenches.

21st December

In trenches as above. machine guns and snipers not active. Relief expected to have taken place. Uneventful day & night.

22nd December

Bethune. Relieved in trenches by 1/K.O.S.B. and moved back into billets at BETHUNE.

23rd December

Battalion cleaning up and kit inspection. Baths and change of underclothing.

24th December

Presentation of medal ribbons by Corps Commander to Capt J E Black M.C. (RAMC) Lt W.J.Holbrook MC and military medalists Ptes Aston, Nottingham & Thurgrove.

25th December

Voluntary communion service. The battalion had a splendid Xmas dinner owing to the kindness of the Bedford Comfort Fund.

26th December

Companies route marching.

27th December

Coys training. Draft 151 strong inspected by Commanding Officer.

28 December

Noyelles-les-Vermelles. Marched to NOYELLES and accommodated in Hutment camp. 16 I.B. took over HOHEZOLLERN SECTOR. Battalion in reserve.

29th December

Companies training. Draft practised in use of box respirators.

30th December

Companies training.

31st December

Service was held in NOYELLES.

8th Bedfordshire Regt Field State

Killed 3 Wounded 10 Sick to Hospital 48 Sick from Hospital 36 Evacuated from F.A. 38 Strength of A Coy 11 Officers 225 Other Ranks Strength of B Coy 5 Officers 215 Other Ranks Strength of C Coy 8 Officers 216 Other Ranks Strength of D Coy 5 Officers 210 Other Ranks

Total 29 Officers 866 Other Ranks

From the war diary, National Archives Ref No WO 95/1611

This shows that Ernest was one of ten soldiers who were wounded on either the 4th, 13th or 19th December 1916 as the war diary for the beginning of January 1917 does not record any soldiers being wounded before he died of his wounds on the 13th January.

He must have been stable enough to be moved to No 13 Base Hospital in Boulogne but succumbed to those wounds there and now lies in grave VIII. C. 178 in Boulogne East Cemetery. He was 35 years old.

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Private 41030 Herbert Cary

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This is believed to be Herbert Cary. This image comes from the WW1 photo montage in Worstead church and was identified by a relative.

This is my first blog of 2017 and looks at a Centenary event from 1917 which records the death of a man from Worstead. When I came to the village with my family in October 2000 I saw that there were two war graves in the churchyard. I wanted to learn about those men and also about the men recorded on the war memorial in the church. This eventually led to my first book being published on that subject in 2012.

Herbert Cary was the son of Louis and Rebecca Cary and he was one of four sons, Louis senior, Charlie, Bernard and Percy. They are listed as living in Reymerstone in Norfolk at the turn of the century and worked as farmers. In 1911 he was living in Worstead and was employed as a gardener. He was married to Florence Louisa Cary and had two daughters Florence and Alice.

Herbert has been a bit of an anomaly because, although he is one of two men buried in the churchyard, there is very little info to go on him. We know, through his gravestone, that he contracted a fever whilst on active service and that he died at St Andrew’s Hospital in Norwich on the 3rd January 1917. So what follows is an abridged account of what his regiment was up to prior to his death.

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St Andfrew’s hospital where Herbert died on 3rd January 1917.

Herbert had initially joined the Norfolk Regiment serving with them as Private 20908 Cary. But he was one of thirteen men that were posted in block to the Essex Regiment. Herbert ended up in the 2nd Battalion which was a pre-war regular battalion that was part of the 12th Brigade in the 4th Division. They had trained in Norfolk predominantly around Cromer and Norwich before moving onto Harrow and landed at Le Harve on the 28th August 1914 and had seen almost continuous action all through 1914 and 1915.

Obviously during this time they had incurred casualties and we know that Herbert did not join them until sometime in 1916. By that time they were on the Somme and the 4th Division saw action on the 1st July 1916 when they attacked a German strong-point known as the Quadrilateral. The 2/Essex lost many men in this advance to German counter battery fire and the 4th Division as a whole lost 4,692 men killed, wounded or missing on that day alone.

Herbert would have been a replacement for the men lost at this time and he would have therefore more than likely to seen action in the later stages of the Somme offensive. At some point it seems that he contracted an illness that was quite endemic in the trenches. This was either ‘Trench Fever’, which was a type of typhus which was contracted from the lice that plagued the soldiers in the war. Or we are looking at him contracting an illness where it is possible he contracted something like pneumonia. On the louse there is a bug which has been described as being central between a virus and a bacterium in size named Rickettsia Quintana. This got into the soldier’s body by way of the bloodstream and the symptoms are described thus,

‘…the incubation period could be as short as 5 days but as long as 21 days before symptoms were present. The symptoms would come on very quickly, the victim would develop back and headaches, the eyes would become congested and rigors would develop. The site of the bite could ulcerate, even become gangrenous, and the lymph nodes on that side of the body would swell up. The victim would then develop a very high temperature of 100 plus degrees. On the 4th -5th day a rash would develop on the chest, abdomen and the limbs. The nervous system would be involved now, the victim would become apathetic and listless by day, and by night delirious, bumbling etc, the disease lasts about 14-21 days if untreated.’

Tue., Dec 12, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches. Left of Battn on S. edge of SALLISEL. Weather very bad. Efforts concentrated on fighting the rain. No material available. Inter-communication impossible except at night. Casualties 1 O.R. missing, 2 O.R. wounded.

Wed., Dec 13, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches as above. Casualties to F.A. (Field Ambulance) 25 O.R. Killed 1 O.R. Missing 2/Lt H.W. Carter, 46 O.R.

Thu., Dec 14, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches as above. Casualties to F.A. 34 O.R. Previous by reported missing now reported killed 1 O.R. Rejoined 2 O.R.

Fri., Dec 15, 1916 FRANCE

Front line trenches. Frost. Ground harder. Relieved by DUKES. Relief complete about 11.0 p m Duck boards laid about ½ way between road and front line. Casualties:- Previously Repd missing now to F.A. 2/Lt Carter to F.A. 14 O.R. wded 1 O.R.

Sat., Dec 16, 1916 COMBLES, FRANCE

Reserve:- Two Coys “A” & “C” in dug outs near Bde Hd Qrs. 2 Coys “B” & “ D” cellars in COMBLES. Conditions of last tour were worse than any previously experienced by the Battn. A number of men treated by the M.O. besides those admitted to F.A. Men dried & fires lit in all dug-outs and cellars. Casualties To F.A. 16 O.R.

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Herbert’s grave in Worstead churchyard. He is buried with his wife Florence and behind the headstone a stone has been laid to his two daughters Alice and Florence.

So just in this period alone he could have contracted an illness. Whatever the circumstances he was sent home and ended up back in Norfolk. Between 1st December 1916 and 315th January 1917 he was one of 27 men who became a fatality serving with the battalion. A large majority of those men are listed as having ‘Died’ or ‘Died at Home’ which in this case means they would have died of illness.

Although this must have been a terrible time for his wife and young daughters at least they would have got to see him before he died and I feel Herbert’s story just highlights that not every soldier died from the result of going over the top.

Herbert’s grave can be found in the northwest end of Worstead churchyard where he is buried with his wife and two daughters.